The Chief Minister of the Indian state of Assam has called for Amnesty International’s ban in the country and accused him of conspiring to defame Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his role in the explosive Pegasus leaks, which have exerted strong pressure on the Modis government.
Himanta Biswa Sarma, Chief Minister of Assam State and member of the Modis Bharatiya Janata (BJP) party, asserted that Amnesty’s role in investigating a number of citizens and political leaders in countries of the whole world, including India, appearing on a leaked data list was part of a long history of conspiracies against India’s democratic fabric and its leadership.
He alleged that Amnesty International had made efforts to encourage left-wing terrorism in India and to defame India and Prime Minister Modi as well as to create discontent among sections of Indian society.
Amnesty, a global human rights organization, had first access to a leaked list of more than 50,000 phone numbers allegedly selected for possible surveillance by government clients of NSO Group, which sells the surveillance software. Pegasus.
Among the figures on the leaked list were dozens of Indian journalists, activists, lawyers and government critics, including Modi’s main rival, Rahul Gandhi. The opposition congressional party alleged that the Modis government was a client of NSO and deployed the Pegasus spyware against its own citizens and political opponents.
NSO has always maintained that it does not operate the systems it sells to controlled government customers and that it does not have access to the data of its target customers.
In statements released through its lawyers, NSO said it would continue to investigate all credible allegations of abuse and take appropriate action. He said that the fact that a number was on the list did not in any way indicate whether that number had been selected for monitoring using Pegasus. But the list is believed to be indicative of those identified as persons of interest by NSO’s government clients.
Amnesty also offered technical support to the investigation, with its security labs performing forensic tests and analyzes on several phones to determine if they had been hacked by the Pegasus spyware.
Amnesty has already come under increasing pressure from the Modi government, including multiple raids on its offices, after issuing several reports criticizing the government’s human rights record. In September last year, Amnesty had to shut down its operations in India after its accounts were frozen by the government in what it described as a witch hunt.
The Congress Party has called for an independent investigation to find out whether the Modis government was using Pegasus spyware.
Sarma was among several senior BJP officials who alleged that the Pegasus leaks had no basis in the truth and that Amnesty’s role proved him to be part of a global conspiracy against India. I strongly condemn this conspiracy and call for a ban on the activities of those organizations that are bent on defaming and harming our nation, he said.
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